Q&A: Comedy Central Boss Says ‘We Did Not Look for the Next Jon Stewart’

By Guest 

Comedy Central on Monday announced that 31-year-old South African comedian Trevor Noah would take over “The Daily Show” from Jon Stewart.

In this Q & A, Comedy Central president Michele Ganeless discussed the rationale behind the decision, the skill set the young performer brings to the job, how his global perspective will help and and how Noah and Larry Wilmore fit together.

How did you come to your decision on Jon’s replacement? What was the process?

It’s a very specific job, and you need a very specific skill set. And when you start to think about who have all the right qualities to host “The Daily Show”, it becomes a very short list very quickly. Trevor was on that list from day one. The more time we spent with him, the more it became apparent he was the right person for the job.

Did you look for a new Jon Stewart?

There is only one Jon Stewart. So, we did not look for the next Jon Stewart. We were looking for someone who brings a really unique and distinct point of view that’s really appropriate for 2015 and the coming years, who could evolve “The Daily Show” for the next generation. Trevor is so smart and so funny and such a citizen of the world that it just became very clear that he could do this job better than anyone else.

How important is that global perspective that Trevor brings to the table?

The world is becoming smaller and smaller every day, so having someone with a global perspective is important for us domestically, not to mention internationally. The world seems to be shrinking in terms of the speed with which information gets disseminated and what people know of different parts of the world. And to have somebody who is very agile in that sense is a big plus for us.

What skill set does a Daily Show host need?

It is about being wickedly funny, extremely bright, being a voracious student of news and pop culture and of the world. They must have an incredible work ethic. This is a hard job, arguably the hardest job in television, I would say. It’s 160 shows a year‎, 20-plus minutes of fresh material every night of the week. The fact that Jon has done it for almost 17 years is remarkable, and the next person coming in has to be able to continually reinvent themselves. And I think we have seen even in Trevor’s short career how he is able to grow and reinvent himself.

What role did or does Trevor’s social media following play?

Trevor has a huge social media following. He has over 2 million followers just on Twitter alone and many, many more on Facebook and Instagram, etc. He has a very large fan base internationally, and he is poised to explode here and certainly that can only help.

Some observers are wondering why you did not choose a woman? Were women in the running for this?

We talked to women. We talked to men. And the more we talked to Trevor, the more we realized he was the best person for the job. Thank God I did not have to do this on my own. We had the core senior team here at Comedy Central along with our boss Doug Herzog who runs the Viacom Music and Entertainment Group‎, and Jon was our advisor throughout the process.

How do Trevor and Larry Wilmore fit together in terms of comedic sensibilities and target audience?

We love Larry and Trevor for completely different reasons, and I don’t know that they have even ever met. Perhaps we should introduce them. First and foremost, it was finding the person with the right set of skills for The Daily Show. The franchise at the core, what “The Daily Show” is, is not going to change. The Nightly Show is such a great companion that I think they will continue to be good companion programming for each other.

Trevor is the son of a black mother and a white father. So, some may say you will now have a late-night lineup with two black hosts and wonder if that is by design.

This is not by design. Trevor and Larry were hired because they are the right people for these jobs.

Late night comedy overall is in flux. What does that mean for you?

It’s a real opportunity for us. What “The Daily Show” does in late night is so different from any other late-night comedy show. Truly, no other show is doing the kind of political satire that “The Daily Show” does. So I think the audience that watches is looking for that. With a new host coming in, it’s an opportunity to bring new attention to the show, and in a perfect world, gain more viewers.

Any ratings targets for Trevor?

No. The way the world views our content now has changed dramatically, so that we don’t just look at what our ratings are, [but also] how many people are watching it online, on our sites, on their phones, on our app. More is better, and I think there is huge upside with Trevor as host.

Have other talent or show details been set yet?

It’s way too early for any creative conversations, but we will get into all of that in the coming months. Some time before the end of this year, we will have an end date for Jon and a start date for Trevor.

How do you think Trevor will get over with the audience?

All they are going to need is to see Trevor perform, and the way the world works today, people will go online and start watching his comedy and they’ll see how fantastic he is. I think he is going to surprise the world.

[This story, reported by Georg Szalai originally appeared in The Hollywood Reporter]